Category Archives: Social Business

IBM Connect 2013 – Purposeful Adoption

IBM Connect 2013 (Lotusphere) is in full swing today. It is clear that the focus this year is driving adoption of IBM Connections. At the opening general session, Alistair Rennie pitched the term “purposeful” adoption. Later in the same session, IBM announced three initiatives here to help, including a set of 10 best practices for social adoption (link to follow).

It was clear from the focus of these best practices that we’ve moved past the point of technology, and to the point of process and cultural adoption of social business. IBM Connections, as a platform, is very impressive, and the demos of Connections next were even more so. But, as IBM’s pitch discussed, the technology is simply a means to an end. If the end is to socialize your business, to turn your business into a collaboration engine, then the reality is that you need to get people engaged with the platform, and the way that you get people engaged is to give them multiple reasons to use the social business platform.

What is also clear is that the business partner community seems to have finally realized that the future of Lotus Notes is IBM Connections, and the majority of the exciting products on the show floor are Connections based rather than Domino based. Finally, the rest of the community is understanding the vision of social business.

As we have blogged previously, the value of a social business network grows non-linearly as the number of people connected to the network grows, AND THEN is multiplied by the number of business contexts and processes that are brought into the social platform.

As we blogged then:

“Social Business Applications are the value multiplier of social business platforms.  They provide new reasons for users to engage with the platform, and they provide value above and beyond traditional versions of applications for all the reasons that social business platforms provide value – they connect the right resources (inside and outside of teams ) in order to get work done more efficiently and effectively.”

IBM is pitching “purposeful” adoption. We say that if you give people purpose on the platform, they will adopt the platform willingly. As we’ve argued previously, Project Management is an excellent “purpose” for social business, and it a natural fit for companies.

ProjExec 5.5 integrates seamlessly with IBM Connections 3 & 4, as well as the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. Come see us at booth C20-C21, and find out how Social Project Management can multiple your investment in IBM Social Software.

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The Problem of Engagement in Social Business

Constellation Research blogged earlier this month about the issues that folks are seeing with social media adoption. Of course, as constellation research says, “People” are at the heart of any technology adoption process. Let’s summarize the info that Constellation provides.

First, Constellation argues that there are five leading barriers to adoption, 1) Poorly defined incentives, 2) Increase in actual effort, 3) Lack of choice in user experience, 4) Indifference to change, and 5) Failure to communicate the urgency.  There is really nothing new here, as these barriers are not unique to social business applications, but are applicable to any software adoption cycle.

Next, Constellation argues that there are five ways to counter these barriers, 1) Adopt gamification strategies, 2) Apply design thinking to transform, 3) Deliver options based on use case, 4) Align to self –interest, and 5) Define the business model shift. There is a little more meat here, so let’s try to pull it off the bone.

First, #1 – adopting gamification strategies. This is certainly all the rage these days. However, is a gamification strategy always a good way to incentivize participation? Definitely not. If a gamification-based incentive strategy is not linked to the need to perform actual work, participation will be perceived by employees as an ‘increase in actual effort’ – one of the barriers that was mentioned above. So, gamification might have a place, but it will not stand alone.

Next, #2 – Applying design thinking to transform. This one is so full of jargon it’s hard to draw out what is meant. However, if the real argument is to recognize that the desired outcome cannot be identified without trial, error, and adjustment (the hallmark of a scenario when design thinking is necessary), then this is clearly true. But it’s also not unique to a social business application implementation.

#3 – Deliver options based on use case. This is theoretically an excellent idea. However, in practice, most software development efforts barely have the budget to create a single, well-performing, interface, let alone multiple well performing ones. However, it is a truism in the mobile age that applications can no longer be PC-centric in their delivery mode.

#4 – Align to self-interest. Now we’re getting somewhere. The best way to maximize adoption of anything, is to appeal to the “what’s in it for me” aspect of the person involved. Really, the five barriers that are mentioned above really all come out of the person’s inability to see what’s in it for them. We’ll come back to this.

Finally, #5 – define the business model shift. This is really just another way to say #4.

So, in reality, barriers to adoption ALL arise from the lack of communicating “what’s in it for me” to the users. And this is the key disconnect between adoption of social media outside the enterprise, and the adoption of social media inside the enterprise. When a person *chooses* to adopt a social media technology outside the context of work, it is just that, a choice, and it is voluntary. The person herself defines what is in it for them, and then chooses to adopt or not. She cannot be compelled, she cannot be forced. She is incentivized to participate by the value that participation brings to her.

In the business social context, the market dynamic is distorted by the fact that participation in enterprise apps can be made mandatory – without the value of the participation being real to the user. This is the source of the barriers identified above, and the force that is attempted to be mitigated by the actions that Constellation recommends. However, the five actions that constellation recommends will simply not work, if actual value is not provided for participation. For instance, gamification strategies do not provide real value for the person involved unless, as Constellation argues, you create tangible and intangible benefits for participating. But is the goal of a social business implementation simple participation? Or is the goal participation with the intention of getting business done more effectively and efficiently? Should I implement software for which I must create new incentives for participation, or should I implement software that is inherently congruent with existing incentives? Should I incentivize people for playing the “game”, or for getting things “done”?

The reality is that social business platform and application adoption strategies like those argued for by Constellation put the cart before the horse. If a technology helps people complete their actual jobs better, and is easy to understand and use, almost every person will see the value to participation and will choose to participate, rather than having to be forced to participate, or cajoled into participation with weak incentives like gift cards, etc.

Social business platforms and applications will no longer have an adoption problem if 1) they integrate real business processes into the platform, so that the platform is the way the process is done, and 2) the new “social” way to do the process is better than the old way of doing things.

How do companies work toward making this the case? First, they create a social platform, and integrate apps into it, so that islands of “social” software do not create impediments to easy enterprise collaboration. Second, they integrate social business applications into the platform to multiply the value of the platform. Finally, they apply social when necessary, and don’t just hit everything with the “social” hammer. Not all processes are best managed using social business applications.

When an organization provides a social business platform and ecosystem that provides value to their employees, participation will not be something that has to be enforced, but will be something that is natural and organic. The kinds of prescriptions in the blog listed above are indicative of organizations that still must “convince” their users that there is value for them in participation – which probably means that there is not.

The Collapsing Universe of Social Business

Dion Hinchcliffe over at the Enterprise 2.0 blog asks “Will Social Software Startups ‘Collapse into the orbit’ of the big vendors?“. He shows just a small subset of the mergers and acquisitions in the space in the past few years, and the picture painted is one of significant consolidation in the social media playing field.

This is a predictable shift, based upon our view of social business software, and the symbiotic relationships between social business platforms and social business applications. Because siloed social business applications make little sense (see here), it is a natural progression for social business application vendors to become closely bound to particular vendors’ platforms. Once the integration between the systems becomes close enough, and enough customers exist for the social business application, it is rather likely that many of the social business applications will be consolidated into platform vendors like IBM, Jive, Salesforce.com, and, Microsoft. Because the number of integrated business processes multiplies the value of the platform itself, it is a natural progression to see these platform vendors expanding the natural value of the platforms through acquisition.

Social Business Software and Business Performance

McKinsey has published a report that illustrates the relationship between social technology use and organizational performance, with some interesting results. McKinsey looks at organizations as achieving different levels of social networking: developing, internally networked, externally networked, and fully networked. The names are pretty self explanatory.

McKinsey found significant, positive correlations between the presence of social business technologies and business performance. Specifically, they found significantly better performance in companies that are increasing their level of integration of social technologies into day-to-day work year over year.

Even so, of the 3000+ companies surveyed, more than 2400 are still in what is called the “developing” category, and only 110 have reached the state of “fully networked”. Most likely many companies choose to focus on internal or external networking, rather than both, so the small number isn’t that surprising. What is more troubling is the finding that companies are not maintaining positive trajectories in their social business implementations.

McKinsey found that, of the companies that had previously reached some level of networking benefits, over half had lost the previously achieved gains and had slid back to the “developing” category.  While many of the statistics that are in the report are similar across categories, one that is extremely different is the level of integration of the social technology into the every day work of the company. In companies that have reached a level of networking value, at least 45% of the companies reported very high levels of integration into the daily work of the company. In developing companies, that number is only 18%.

This highlights and confirms a point we have made in the past. Social networking platform investments are only the first step. What multiplies the value and usefulness of a social platform is the integration of business processes into the social platform – via technologies like ProjExec.

So, while companies may begin to become networked using platforms, continued and consistent integration of the processes of the business into the social platform of the organization is needed to continue the trajectory of social adoption and value generation.

Social project management is an excellent entry point for social business, and ProjExec is that entry point if you’re on the the IBM Social Business platforms – IBM Connections and the IBM SmartCloud.

ProjExec. Projects. Made Social.

Social Project Management – Narrating the project as it happens.

A new term is emerging to describe the paradigm of social business interaction – narration. I really like this term, as it gives a little bit better mental picture of what goes on when using an enterprise social platform, or a social business application like ProjExec.

What happens in a consumer social environment like Facebook is that people “narrate” their lives. So,  in a social business environment, workers can learn to “narrate” their work. In a previous post, we argued that social business applications help to make work “observable”, and more recently we’ve argued that a key benefit of social project management (and other social applications) is to “make the invisible, visible”.

For a moment, think about going through life with one of your senses missing. In these cases, humans’ other senses are heightened, either naturally via adaptation and increased development, or via utilizing additional, external tools (cane, hearing aid, etc.) to provide additional environmental feedback that is not provided due to the loss or reduction of a sense. More specifically, a person who is blind can be assisted by a “narrator” who can give them information about a new or modified environment. This is not to say that the blind person could not find information about the environment herself, but this information is greatly enriched by the presence of the narration.

In the same way, business processes, particularly knowledge workers’ processes are black boxes. From a certain point of view, businesses are “blind” to the current state of many of their processes. Knowledge processes are notoriously difficult to observe – so much so that identifying the current state of a knowledge process is almost impossible. In addition, distribute teams lose significant observability that comes from being collocated. However, social business changes both of these issues – IF the people executing the process “narrate” it as it happens.

In a project execution process, narration typically happens during status reporting meetings, by project managers chasing down people for updates, in daily stand up meetings, etc. In a social project management environment, this can happen via narration by individuals (and by the software itself) on the project activity stream. Instead of the team only having visibility at the point of a status meeting, instead of the business not being able to see the actual work that is happening “right now”, a narrated project provides the business with awareness of the project, in real time, as it happens.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to see several friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen “in person” for a very long time (think more than 10 years).  Some of these friends were also “Facebook friends” and some were not. While I was very excited to see each one of them, our “reunions” exhibited very different dynamics.  For the friends who were NOT my Facebook friends, we shared stories about what had happened since the last time we’d seen each other, what our current jobs and lives were like, our pets, our kids’ achievements, etc. – basically what has been discussed at class or family reunions since the dawn of reunions. However, when speaking with the friends who are connected to me via Facebook, these conversations and discussions were interrupted repeatedly by “Yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” or “Yeah, I know.” Instead of recapping our lives, we talked about our future plans, and did so in a great deal more depth than in those encounters when we spent a lot of time discussing the past.

In a real sense, reunions are our opportunity to give status reports on our lives to those people who cannot observe it themselves. These status reports become much less necessary when we are providing a regular narration of our lives to our social network.

The same dynamic applies when our project teams narrate the work of a project. We need far fewer status reporting sessions, because everyone is being made aware of things as they happen. We develop a sense of “knowing” amongst the project team, and we can focus more of our time on getting the work done, and less time performing work about work.

So, give Social Project Management a try. Narrate your business processes. Become social every day, so that you can focus on the future, rather than the past.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

(This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group. Trilog Group is the maker of ProjExec, the social project management solution for the IBM Collaboration Platform environments. ProjExec is available for IBM Connections, IBM SmartCloud, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM Websphere Portal.)

Social Task Management and Social Project Management. Friends or Foes?

Social task management is getting a lot of press lately, and a number of vendors are adding the capability to their products. Unfortunately, there is some confusion about the difference between social task management and social project management. Hopefully this short post can help to clarify the differences.

In short, social task management provides users to define a “to do list on steroids”, share/assign the list with others, and some provide the ability to define an ad hoc “workflow” to the tasks. Jive SBS (Tasks) and IBM Connections (Activities) have permutations of this feature, and each have attempted to argue that the future of “project management” is in social task management. In contrast, social project management is the leveraging of the social network of an organization to deliver rigorous project more effectively and efficiently. (See here, and this series)

Here’s the first “problem”. Social task management is just that. Task management. Project management has never been about task management. Tasks are usually far more granular than the items that would appear as activities and deliverables on a work breakdown structure. Tasks are usually self-defined, and often responsive to very small changes in the environment. Tasks, due to their “ad-hoc”  nature do not lend themselves to planning and reporting.

The second “problem” with the embedding of “social” task management into every silo software solution is that the social component becomes restricted to those who have access to the software, and who participate in the work process into which it is embedded (see this post as to the importance of embedding social business processes into a larger social platform).

So, in reality social task management is usually just “process-related” task management, and has little (if any) resemblance to “social” business, and no resemblance to project management.

However, social project management and social task management serve complementary purposes, and can be used together when task management is enabled at the social platform level (rather than in siloed applications). Let’s look at how this might work. In a social project management application, the work is broken down into the smallest pieces that make sense when looking at the project. However, there are a myriad of “tasks” that are related to most of these project work breakdown items. Who hasn’t had a project manager assign a task, and then gone and created a “to do” list of tasks that are needed to complete the “project task”. Of course that “to do” list is almost never truly accomplished by your solitary work. Others are asked to assist, find information, look over what you’ve done, etc. In a sense, your “to do” list becomes a “micro-project” that you manage, embedded into a larger, enterprise project.

In this sense, the “activity” feature of IBM Connections is most like the idea of a “micro” project. It allows multiple people to collaborate on a task list, allows for information to be shared, and, let’s you collaborate ad hoc to get small sets of work done. The ProjExec social project management software from Trilog Group (http://www.triloggroup.com) allows users to directly create IBM Connections activities from their project-level tasks – enabling this concept of micro projects linked to enterprise-level projects. Together the two systems are very powerful. The project can be managed at the correct level, without requiring the smallest (and immaterial) tasks to be tracked in the plan, and each project user can create their own micro projects in Activities, collaborate on that work, and track the minutia there.

Social Project Management and Social Task Management are very different things. Use them in the right place for the right “tasks”.

This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group.

The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of five posts

Let’s summarize what we’ve asked so far. In our first post, we asked, “How does your tool allow me to leverage the expertise of my entire organization?” , and noted that the first question begins to illuminate whether what is being sold is “social software” at all. Next we asked “Does your software support real project management?”, and discussed the lack of support for the project management role and practice within many online and social task management systems. We then turned to needs of the team, and asked “Do you provide what my team needs to collaborate fully on the project while minimizing the impact of project management tasks on project completion.” In that post we argued that social project management systems need all of the online collaboration tools that the web can provide, but also need the ability to structure that collaboration around project task completion and status reporting – in order to minimize work about work. In the fourth post, we asked “Does your software support what management – outside the team – needs?”, and emphasized the need for the social network of the project – management included – to be given access to the project data in real time, and to participate in the project fully.

In this post we ask a question that is related to many of the previous posts, namely “Does your software support our enterprise social strategy?”. If you haven’t yet developed an enterprise social strategy, you most likely will in the next year or two. An enterprise social strategy is a key step in ensuring that investments in are leveraged and exploited as fully as possible. Remember that (as we’ve stated before) Metcalfe’s law posits that the value of a network increases non-linearly to the increase of the nodes (think people in our case) connected to the network. This holds for a “single-purpose” network. However, for a multi-purpose network, of which a social network is an instance, the potential value of the network is also multiplied by the number of “uses” for which the network is employed. In the context of the business value of enterprise social, these “uses” equate to business processes that are integrated with the social network.

For this reason every company who makes a material investment in social software needs to be sure that those investments are compatible. So, in a fashion,  Question 5 closes the loop with Question 1. In the first post we asked if the software was capable of leveraging connections to a greater social network. This post gets to the core idea of whether the software leverages connections with the “right” enterprise social network. As of this posting, we are aware of three project management systems that integrate with larger social networking systems. Goshido and Wrike integrate with the Jive SBS system, and ProjExec integrates with IBM Connections, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM SmartCloud. (We will not use this post to compare and contrast those systems directly. Also, if you know of more systems that integrate with enterprise social platforms, comment below, and we’ll add them to the list.) So, if you are an IBM Social Collaboration software shop, ProjExec gives you unique opportunities to leverage your enterprise social investment, and if you’re a Jive SBS customer, Goshido and Wrike do the same for you.

Hopefully, this series has given you something to think about when conceptualizing social project management, and social software in general. We hope that it is valuable to you. As always, we’d love your comments below.

This series of articles was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group (www.triloggroup.com)